I wonder if my ancestors would have continued marrying whom they were marrying if they had known that they would eventually have produced me, a goat farmer. And, the same could be said for my husband, Lee, another goat farmer. I was standing in a blizzard yesterday discussing this with my male livestock guard dog, Buck.
I understand that Buckís line of Anatolians and Maremmas go back a thousand years, as do many of the other breeds of livestock guardians. No, Buck didnít tell me this yesterday, I had read it earlier and I was telling him. Someone a thousand years ago noticed a dog that didnít mind sleeping with the sheep and goats, along with the shepherd. In fact, the shepherd noticed that the dog seemed to feel responsible for the goats and sheep, especially since it was fighting off lions and bears and wolves to protect the goats and sheep. Thinking deeply on this, the shepherd asked around and other people had a dog or two that seemed to act the same way. Hey, they all said, why donít we breed these dogs and they will be our extra help protecting the livestock?! And, all they would want is to be fed, if they couldnít hunt something for themselves. Well, just like us! All we goat farmers get is fed and even shelter sometimes too!
Thus, was the shepherd (goat farmer) and then the livestock guard dog. I was in deep philosophical thought yesterday as I struggled against the blowing snow. Usually the goats will stay in one of the shelters in this cold nasty blizzard type weather, but I had come out to clean the ice out of the water tubs and fill them up fresh, as I do every day, and check the girls over to see how everyone was doing. They had come out of the barns and run-in sheds to get fresh water, plus they knew I would be sneaking around, trying to take some hay to the more timid of the goats who I thought werenít getting near the round bales enough because of the boss does.
I would go sneaking around the building with a batch of hay clutched tightly to my chest to give to one of my favorite timid girls, only to look back and see 80 does sneaking along behind me, waiting for me to put that little batch of hay down so they could pounce on it. Then I would sigh and give up and even though they had round bales available and it was the exact same hay, I would set out ten or twenty little mounds of hay on the frozen ground. In appreciation, they would all pounce on these little mounds, inhaling them, and following me to the next batch of hay I sat out.
The only thing good about this idea, that seemed to not be working the way I had planned, is the girls were so busy following me around to take hay away from the timid ones, that the timid ones would finally end up at the round bales, happily eating, wondering why the other goats were chasing wisps of hay from dwindling little mounds in the blowing snow. They were quite comfortable in the shelters eating the large round bales watching the rest of the goats.
And, what made me become all philosophical? Buck, the male livestock guard dog is now close to ten years old. He had been in his comfortable barn, out of the blizzard until I had started putting out little mounds of hay around the pasture. Most the goats had left to follow me around, so out he came to keep an eye on his goats, bringing out the two other livestock guard dogs.
There Buck sat so regal, winds and snow whipping around him, as he kept watch over his girls. He just had to do it. Years and years of breeding had produced that in him. And, all he asked for was a meal, unless he had caught a tasty ground hog earlier. Then he would cover his dog food with dirt or snow that evening and walk away. Iím not sure what that means except dog food does not compare to a fat ground hog.
And, what was I doing? Out in the blowing snow, temperatures well below freezing, making sure the goats were fed and comfortable, and I was also insanely grinning. It was such a wild and beautiful sight, goats, winds, snow, and a regal livestock guardian not complaining, just doing his job. I was happy. Winter can be hard on the goat farmer, but there we are, out in it, and deep down, happy. Just remember to not grin too long in this type of winter weather because your lips will freeze to your teeth. But, you canít help yourself to be there, just like the carefully bred livestock guardian dog.
Yep, it must have taken hundreds of years to produce me and Lee, the goat farmers. And, I really expect, at any moment, my sisters and brother are going to call me and ask desperately for my help to become goat farmers. That they just wonít be able help themselves, because, after all, they are my sisters and brother. And, Leeís sister and brother will start uncontrollably buying goats to put in their backyards. They just wonít be able to help themselves either. After all, it took hundreds and hundreds of years to produce me and Lee and Buck. You just canít go against good breeding.